Macquarie University
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The roles of the Interpreter in political settings: a case study of the Chinese government’s in-house interpreters in press conferences

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posted on 2022-03-28, 00:58 authored by Chen Yi
Interpreting is commonly recognised as an oral form of translation intended to facilitate communication across linguistic or cultural barriers (Pochhacker, 2004). Since interpreting is fundamentally a language-based activity, the roles of the interpreter are enacted through his or her use of language in context. The aim of this study is to understand the interpreter’s roles in practice, or more specifically, the roles of the interpreters in the Premier’s NPC (National People'sCongress) and CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) press conference in China, a high-profile political event, which is also known as the two-session press conference. For this objective, the study uses a specialized corpus built out of these political events; and adopts systemic functional linguistics (SFL) as its theoretical and analytical framework. The study investigates the interpersonal choices made by the interpreters and the context in which these choices are made, particularly in relation to the changes in speaker, addressee and topic of the question and answer set in the interpreting practice. The study finds that the Chinese government in-house interpreters perform dual roles in the press conferences: as a professional interpreter, and as a civil servant. On the one hand, the interpreters are committed to their professionalism in providing a linguistic service only in communication. On the other hand, they respond to the influence of their institutional allegiance. These two roles are by and large determined by the context in which the interpreting takes place. The in-house interpreters have to decide their performance choices in communication with full consideration of the context in which they are interpreting, thereby making corresponding choices at both lexicogrammatical and semantic levels. By investigating the interpreters’ roles and their linguistic choices from the perspective of systemic functional linguistics and on the basis of a specialised corpus, the study offers benefits to both interpreting practitioners and researchers, by: 1) providing linguistic evidence that the interpreters tend to play a proactive role in an interpreter-mediated event; 2) demonstrating that the linguistic choices made by the interpreters are reflective of the contextual constraints they face; and 3) shedding light on future corpus-based interpreting studies.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Interpreter's role in interpreting studies -- Chapter 3. Interpreter’s social identity : a systemic functional perspective -- Chapter 4. Methodology -- Chapter 5. Interpreters' role and the change of speakers -- Chapter 6. Interpreters' role and the change of addressee -- Chapter 7. Interpreters' role and the change of content -- Chapter 8. Conclusion -- References -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 284-297

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Zhongwei Song

Additional Supervisor 1

Canzhong Wu


Copyright Yi Chen 2016. Copyright disclaimer:






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